Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Why Are Dreams So Strange?

The mind is curious thing. We believe the perceptions from our awakened state to be the ultimate reality - the be all and end all of our existence. The way things work in our day to day world, our interactions, our actions, their implications, and our understandings, appear to be the true representations of reality.

So when we sleep, why do we not question the random strangeness and non-realities that perpetuate our slumber? What causes dreams to be so bizarre compared to our awoken reality?

Dreams make no sense


It's not just a sensory thing. In dreams, even concepts are twisted and stretched and mixed together. I was once in a state of half-asleep dozing and had someone dictate what I was saying - and it was complete nonsense, quite hilarious with absolutely no reference to my experiences or thoughts of the day (or reality in general). Dreams seem to be a regurgitation of our minds but absent of any of the framework to hold it together. This made me wonder. Did humans dream before we became "intelligent"?

Research points to the fact that dreams come from implicit memories and the neo-cortex rather than declarative memories from the hippocampus. In other words, dreams are formed by abstract concepts rather than definitive memories of situations. This would explain why these concepts often don't fit in with the reality we are used to, yet they do have some grounding in this reality.

Consciousness within the dream world


With lucid dreaming, we can train our minds to recognise the strange differences between awake and asleep, and then initiate our consciousness while remaining in the strangeness of the dream. So this shows that consciousness is not necessarily a factor in the "falseness" of dreams, as many people can even control the reality of their dreaming state.

If consciousness can control our reality in our dreams, then how are our dreams any different from our awakened state? How do we know which reality (if any) is the right one?

It seems it is our perceptions, rather than our environments, that define our reality.




Image courtesy Robert Couse-Baker

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